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April 29, 2007
Tori Amos - Living Doll
by Christian Taylor
None of us live in a vacuum, least of all Tori Amos, who is often driven to her piano to thrash out the issues of the world around her. "That we're living in troubled times is no secret," says Amos. Two strangers were the inspiration for her new album, one woman who stopped her in the queue at Starbucks saying, "What can I do? My boyfriend had to go fight. I hate those bastards behind this satanic war. I may never hold him again." The other, a woman who said that Tori's next album should, "Tell it like it fucking is. The war just isn't something out there, you know. I live in a fucking war."
Tori says that her ninth studio album is her response to these issues, but this time she's not doing it alone. Introducing the American Doll Posse, part self-exploration, part feminist army, Tori uses this group of women to tie together the disparate threads that make up what is already being called her most important work to date. "When the songs started coming to me this time I was looking for the continuity from song to song and I wasn't finding it. Not at first. I was either writing many different records at the one time, or I was writing one record with many different voices, different perspectives."
She chose to go with the latter, developing a posse of girls - each very much their own woman - from the sexy sensuality of Santa, the brash, youthful rage of Pip, to the meekness of Clyde and the inquisitive, political mind of Isabel. It's an idea that she's touched on before, although this time she's taken it much further."If I hadn't done Strange Little Girls I would never have been able to take this idea to the multimedia presentation that this is becoming. When I did that... I thought that I had taken it as far as I could."
She was wrong. According to Tori she's only now starting to "show people [her] bag of tricks". Defiantly she says, "I am showing how I refuse to be confined to the stereotypes of the western woman in 2007. A lot of these compartments come from this male authority, Christian influenced way of thinking and as a minister's daughter I don't agree with this." Tori says that the Christian right wing have been very successful and have gained a lot of ground in the US. The only way against such a powerful force is to hit them right where it hurts - in their ideology. "They're all about the monotheistic male authority, everything else is subservient to that. So I'm thinking oh no you're not, we're bringing on the mother gods."
It's not hard to see why Tori's such a gay icon. She's strong, she's lived through rejection, rape and doubt. Her music is abstract enough for the listener to paint themselves into the picture, allowing it to seep into every pore over time. "Gay beings have to work through a lot of shame that's projected on to them and having been brought up in an extremely Christian home there was a lot of shame in sexuality and sensuality as a woman," says Tori. As for advice to her gay fans out there struggling to really find their place in the world, she says it's all about holding onto what's inside and knowing who you are. "First of all your spirituality is sacred - no one can judge it. And no one has access to it. People can hang their opinions on you or me no different than they hang a hat on a rack, but that's all it is. Sometimes we internalise people's opinions, we wear them underneath our skin as if we're tattooed. If there is a compassionate, benevolvent force then it loves all human forms of expression. Nobody can tell you not to take your own path. Nobody has that authority unless we give it to them."
Tori is an artist who refuses not to take herself seriously, using every opportunity to really interrogate the current state of the world. "The only way to combat destruction is through creation," she says, "Of course what I desire most, as a composer and as a creator of ideas, is that those ideas are contagious. Hopefully, they spark something in somebody else, who passes it on." It's very true - one person's creativity can in turn inspire the world to do great things, and that's a powerful force.
With most of her Australian fans still reeling from her electric performances in 2005, the anticipation for her September arrival here has already begun. She'll be bringing the band with her this time, as well as the posse, and she couldn't be happier about returning to our shores. "There are elements of Britain that we love and there are elements of America that we love that seem to be married in Australia. We love it down there, so does Tash [her daughter]. She came alive there. I mean Tash was living for that harbour when we played the Sydney Opera House. She was running around backstage looking out the window saying, "I've got to get out onto that harbour mummy!" You'd think she was a little sailor!"
When asked about her memories of her time spent here, it's one of the few questions that leaves her a little lost for words. "Something is happening down there, something that has really transformed since I was there in the early nineties. And yes, I had a great time in the early nineties, but something is happening. I am sure you're feeling it?" Yes, perhaps. There's a lot of forces at work everywhere in the world right now it seems, Australia included. "A lot of people are moving down there, they're wanting to live there."
So, with Tori's album about to hit stores and with the world tour starting not long after that, the posse will have a lot of shows under their belt before they reach us, giving them time to really develop their own stage presences. Tori's often talked of her songs as her 'girls' - they become a part of her, yet they almost take on their own life force as well. Like the song Cooling who flatly refused to be on any of the albums, actually telling her to 'fuck off' and that she only liked being played live. Will the posse become equally as unruly? With 120 shows ahead of them, it's a very distinct possibility.
Perhaps spare a thought for Tori's husband, who's now coping with the posse living under his roof. "Oh, he's loving it! He's saying 'wife keep it up!' Don't feel sorry for him, he's a lucky man!"
He certainly is.
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